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GLOF Hazard, Exposure, Vulnerability, and Risk Assessment of Potentially Dangerous Glacial Lakes in the Bhutan Himalaya

Lookup NU author(s): Sonam Rinzin, Dr Stuart DunningORCiD


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Deglaciation due to atmospheric warming has led to the formation and expansion of numerous glacial lakes, especially in the eastern Himalaya. Many of these glacial lakes are susceptible to glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs), which can cause far-reaching impacts on downstream infrastructure and livelihoods. This study is a comprehensive assessment of GLOF susceptibility, hazard, exposure, vulnerability, and risk for four potentially dangerous glacial lakes (Bechung Tsho, Raphstreng Tsho, Thorthomi Tsho, and Lugge Tsho) located in the Lunana glacier complex of the Phochu basin in Bhutan. Exposure and risk assessments were based on modelled GLOF hydrodynamics, infrastructure data, population and housing census data. Among the four glacial lakes, Thorthormi Tsho and Lugge Tsho are relatively more susceptible to outburst floods than Raphstreng Tsho and Bechung Tsho. Outflow flood volumes from these lakes range between 6 × 105 and 3 × 108 m3 which can potentially impact over 16,000 people, two hydropower projects, numerous other infrastructures, and agricultural land up to 150 km downstream of the lakes. The GLOF exposed elements are largely in Punakha and Wangdue Phodrang districts, which are located 90 and 100 km downstream of the Lunana glacier complex respectively. Among 17 subdistrict blocks within the basin, one (Lunana) lies in a very high GLOF risk area, while 9 others are in the high GLOF risk zone. The study highlights the importance of multi-source data in improving the knowledge of downstream GLOF risk and serves as a base for improving GLOF risk reduction strategies in high mountain regions.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Rinzin S, Zhang G, Sattar A, Wangchuk S, Allen SK, Dunning S, Peng M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Hydrology

Year: 2023

Volume: 619

Print publication date: 01/04/2023

Online publication date: 26/03/2023

Acceptance date: 19/02/2023

ISSN (print): 0022-1694

ISSN (electronic): 1879-2707

Publisher: Elsevier BV


DOI: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2023.129311


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